Man in white standing in front of a large machine
A scientist stands in front of the Microarcsecond Metrology (MAM) testbed.

Metrology is the scientific study of measurement.[1] It establishes a common understanding of units, crucial in linking human activities.[2] Modern metrology has its roots in the French Revolution's political motivation to standardise units in France, when a length standard taken from a natural source was proposed. This led to the creation of the decimal-based metric system in 1795, establishing a set of standards for other types of measurements. Several other countries adopted the metric system between 1795 and 1875; to ensure conformity between the countries, the Bureau International des Poids et Mesures (BIPM) was established by the Metre Convention.[3][4] This has evolved into the International System of Units (SI) as a result of a resolution at the 11th Conference Generale des Poids et Mesures (CGPM) in 1960.[5]

Metrology is divided into three basic overlapping activities.[6][7] The first being the definition of units of measurement, second the realisation of these units of measurement in practice, and last traceability, which is linking measurements made in practice to the reference standards. These overlapping activities are used in varying degrees by the three basic sub-fields of Metrology.[6] The sub-fields are scientific or fundamental metrology, which is concerned with the establishment of units of measurement, Applied, technical or industrial metrology, the application of measurement to manufacturing and other processes in society, and Legal metrology, which covers the regulation and statutory requirements for measuring instruments and the methods of measurement.

In each country, a national measurement system (NMS) exists as a network of laboratories, calibration facilities and accreditation bodies which implement and maintain its metrology infrastructure.[8][9] The NMS affects how measurements are made in a country and their recognition by the international community, which has a wide-ranging impact in its society (including economics, energy, environment, health, manufacturing, industry and consumer confidence).[10][11] The effects of metrology on trade and economy are some of the easiest-observed societal impacts. To facilitate fair trade, there must be an agreed-upon system of measurement.[11]